"There's been this label put on them, that they are all asylum seekers. That's not correct," said Buffalo area immigration attorney Rosanna Berardi on WBEN Wednesday morning.
The founder of Berardi Immigration Law in Buffalo, categorizes the unknown number of migrants coming to Erie County, as 'non legal migrants'. She said under Title 42, which expired earlier this month, claiming asylum has been prohibited in the U.S. for the past three years, due largely to the pandemic.
"The whole broad category of asylum seekers that the media is perpetuating, is not technically correct," said Berardi. "Those who do seek asylum have to meet a very difficult standard. You have to show a well founded fear of persecution by a government entity. It must be based on religion, gender, or race. You cannot claim that you want to come here for a better opportunity."
When it comes to people seeking asylum, the percentage of cases that get approved is very low. It's in the single digits, according to Berardi. That could mean a large number of migrants, in the U.S. for years, waiting for their cases
to be adjudicated, could be sent back.
"It's very likely that will happen," she added, "unless the federal government and Congress grant them some kind of special authorization to stay."
Something similar was done back in the 1980's when a sweeping approval was made for people who came to the U.S. unlawfully. "But I'm not sure it's going to happen again, under this political climate."
Berardi said the process is part of the draw to come to the U.S. "Migrants know this is not a likety-split system and that they can stay while things are pending.
In his statement Tuesday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the individuals coming have already been vetted by federal authorities. Berardi is not so sure about that.
"If we're talking about a refugee, which is way different than someone seeking asylum, refugees are recognized and vetted by the Department of State. Background checks are run and they are allowed to come here lawfully because of fear of persecution. We see a lot of it with the Burmese community in Western New York. There are people who have gone through the lawful refugee or asylum process and have been vetted."
Berardi went on to say, "I'm not certain that these migrants that are coming from New York City have really gone through those channels. I just think there so much misinformation out there between the various levels of government. There's a lot of blurred lines and misstatements going on."